VivoAquatics Updates

What the Chlorine Shortage Means for You

July 8, 2021

pool chlorine tablets shortageIs there a shortage of chlorine? 

Yes, but the good news for commercial properties is that it is not the chlorine you want. 

The headlines are non-stop.

“A major chlorine shortage is set to spoil summertime fun in the swimming pool”

‘Poolmageddon’: Chlorine shortage could disrupt summertime fun

Summer bummer: A chlorine shortage is looming

But here’s the thing.  The shortage of chlorine relates to one form of chlorine: Trichloro-S-Triazinetrione or, as we call it in the industry, Trichlor tabs. In August, the primary manufacturer of Trichlor in the US, BioLab, experienced a plant fire during hurricane Laura. As a result, there has been a huge shortage in the market for Trichlor and there are few options available for sourcing the chemical elsewhere. Now, such tabs are coming in from China but are subject to heavy tariffs.

Trichlor tabs have been a staple in the residential market for years.  They are easy to use and have provided homeowners a relatively easy way to sanitize their pool.  That’s the good news.  But the truth is Trichlor is not the best sanitizer for a commercial property.  With a pH of 2.9, they are very acidic and without oversight, they can easily lead to etching and degradation of your plaster.  On top of that, Trichlor contains 52% stabilizer (cyanuric acid). This is very problematic in commercial applications as too much stabilizer reduces the efficacy of chlorine.  In fact, multiple studies have shown the introduction of cyanuric in the water can more than double the kill time for key pathogens like cryptosporidium.  Finally, the use of Trichlor and the embedded cyanuric require pools and spas to be constantly drained, as most health departments limit cyanuric levels at 100 PPM and the only way to lower the level is through draining the water.

Trichlor is less safe than other sanitizers. Causes more damage to the equipment and structures. Is under attack from regulators and health departments who are working to limit its use. The current shortage of supply gives us all the opportunity to implement a better solution.

Most larger resort properties, hotels, and community facilities have already moved away from Trichlor to alternative forms of chlorination (all of which have widespread availability) including sodium hypochlorite (liquid bleach), cal-hypo tabs, or saline systems.  Yet we see many smaller properties still using Trichlor tabs.  Now is the time to change.  Save yourself money, extend the life of your equipment and plaster and keep your residents and guests safer with a better form of chlorination.

Let’s look at some of the great alternatives available: Sodium Hypochlorite, Calcium Hypochlorite, Chlorine Generation. 

  1. Sodium Hypochlorite is very easy to come by and is usually manufactured in or around every state, so shortages should not be a factor.  There are some major manufacturers like HASA who are doing a great job of meeting the new demand with timely delivery.  Liquid bleach has a higher pH than Trichor and doesn’t include a stabilizer so you won’t have to worry about the issues discussed above. Sodium Hypochlorite can also be easily automated with the addition of a chemical controller and dosing pumps, allowing for much more precise control of water quality. 
  2. Calcium Hypochlorite. This is another unstabilized option and has a higher pH than Trichlor. There is even a readily available drop-in replacement for Trichlor Tab feeders on the market known as the CCH Endurance feeder. There are also plenty of options for easily automating Calcium Hypochlorite feeders available, making this another great choice.
  3. Saline Chlorine Generation. While typically more expensive than liquid bleach or cal hypo, saline (salt) systems are a great way to sanitize a pool while also providing a more upscale setting (as many people like the softer feel of saltwater pools. ChlorKing, a major manufacturer of such systems also provides an onsite chlorination system (Nexgen) that also produces pH-neutral solution and thus limits your need for muriatic acid to manage pH. 

Tip! Automation and monitoring keep the pool water balanced, thus reducing the need for as much chlorine use. Keeping your water healthy allows what’s being used to be more efficient while optimizing and eliminating big swings in the chemistry of the water chemicals being used — keep usage in check and ensure that your pools and spas are ready for your guests, members, and residents. 

If your property or portfolio is concerned about the shortage of Trichlor, please contact us. We are happy to review your options and help create a strategy to get through the summer!

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